Tech: 2022 Toyota Connected: Autono-MaaS and Cabin Awareness Concept


The Future of Safety Technology

Toyota demonstrated two key technologies—mobility services and passenger safety—to the media the first week of June at its U.S. headquarters in Plano, Texas. Both of these are important in their separate ways, reinforced by Toyota North America president and CEO Tetsuo “Ted” Ogawa saying our concept is “Mobility for All.”

Aurora applies its technology to the Sienna and bigger trucks

Autono-MaaS: Autonomous Mobility

Autono-MaaS is a self-driving interface innovation developed in-house by Toyota. When used with an autonomous driving kit from another company, Autono-MaaS allows the combined technologies to autonomously drive a vehicle for public transportation or even in a Class 8 over-the-road semi hauling goods.

Two companies are currently using Autono-MaaS: May Mobility and Aurora Innovation. Each have a Toyota Sienna Hybrid with Autono-MaaS embedded into the minivan’s center console. From there they are performing a wide spectrum of mobility services for their customers.

May Mobility is already in communities providing services where there aren’t developed transportation systems. Think inner cities or customers with disabilities. CEO Edwin Olson says the company has a “vision to transform cities using autonomous vehicles,” and the Toyota Sienna is “the first vehicle built from the ground up, ready to be controlled by a computer.”

May Mobility took its sensors and autonomous drive kit, then applied them to the Sienna “in the easiest fashion possible,” according to senior vehicle product & experience designer Michael Piotter.

Aurora Innovation also uses a Sienna Hybrid with Autono-MaaS embedded into the center console in its Aurora Driver system for autonomous ride sharing. They have also taken it one step further by placing Autono-MaaS in a semi. Co-founder and chief product officer Sterling Anderson said: “Because cars powered by Aurora Driver operate on fundamentally the same hardware and software as trucks, they inherit the unique capability of operating at high speeds on highways.” This allows the Aurora Siennas to travel up to 70 miles per hour and handle high-speed driving capabilities such as looking far down the road to avoid hazards and construction zones.

Cabin Awareness Concept

Toyota is also addressing a life or death proposition. It is always heartbreaking to see a news report of a child or pet left in a hot car, many times with a tragic result. Toyota’s Cabin Awareness Concept uses millimeter wave technology and radar to detect a small movement—or even a heartbeat—of occupants left behind in a vehicle.

This can see all

The millimeter wave technology is transmitted through a ceiling-mounted sensor, approximately three-inches square and one-inch high, that can tell if a child or pet is in any of the three rows, between the seats, in the footwell or the cargo area. The system will not report a bag or backpack on a seat as there is no detectible movement such as breathing or a heartbeat. If the system detects someone left behind, it can send an alert message to the driver’s mobile phone.

But what if the driver doesn’t have their phone with them when exiting the vehicle? This is where radar comes in. The system will be able to send the alert message to designated friends and family, integrate with home systems by broadcasting to an entire household and, lastly, contact local emergency services. Toyota even said it has thought about flashing the exterior lights and honking the horn as a warning.

Take a few minutes to watch this video of the Cabin Awareness Concept to understand how this first-of-its-kind technology can be life saver.

Observations: Toyota Autono-MaaS and Cabin Awareness Concept Technologies

The Autono-MaaS system will be valuable to companies developing proprietary autonomous driving systems that will at some point need to test their work. The only way is with a vehicle that has the ability to receive autonomous driving commands and perform vehicle tasks such as accelerating, stopping and turning. Toyota is open to partnering with any AV company with a Sienna Hybrid equipped with Autono-Maas.

The exciting and intriguing technology is coming from the team at Toyota Connected. At a 36-hour hackathon in October 2019, hundreds of engineers came up with a working prototype of the Cabin Awareness system. This system has been integrated into a Sienna Hybrid minivan for future testing under real world conditions. The use of the Sienna is no accident as it is one of Toyota’s most recently upgraded models. That also plays into its use for the Autono-MaaS program. It is clear Toyota has a vision to combine self-driving vehicles with occupant safety. Good for them!

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Story and photos by John Faulkner.

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